Wasps & Hornets

Wasps, yellowjackets, and hornets can become a problem anywhere in Appling County, Wayne County, Jeff Davis County, Bacon County, Tatnall County, and Pierce County if they are found near humans and domestic animals. These insects may nest around homes, in commercial buildings, farm structures and equipment, in parks and in other areas where people live, work, and play. We usually consider wasps as beneficial because of the number of caterpillars, beetle larvae, flies and other insects that some of these species feed upon or use to provision their nests. Others may play a minor role in plant pollination and thus benefit man. Whenever they become too numerous, nest in close proximity to human activities, or become attracted to food being used by humans, some control is necessary.

Nesting Habits and Venom

It is important to distinguish between the different types of stinging insects that are commonly called wasps, yellowjackets and hornets. Insects properly referred to as wasps have either social or solitary nesting behavior. Digging wasps and mud daubers are examples of solitary wasps, since individual females construct and provision their nests. As a general rule, solitary wasps are unaggressive even if disturbed and seldom defend their nests. Their sting and venom is used as an offensive weapon to paralyze their prey, which consists of many insects and their relatives. The venom of solitary wasps has anesthetic properties and usually is not a serious problem with man. On the other hand, social wasps such as yellowjackets, paper wasps and hornets use their jaws and legs to attack and subdue prey. Being social, their nests may contain up to thousands of individuals. Workers of the social wasps use their venom as a defensive weapon and often attack in large numbers any threatening animal or human. The venom is designed to produce intense pain and may cause a dangerous systemic reaction in allergic individuals.

Wasp Stings

Between 0.4 and 0.8 percent of humans are allergic to social wasp and bee venom. Nearly 80 percent of all serious venom-related deaths occur within one hour of the sting. If symptoms are more serious than localized swelling, reddening and pain or mild headache and fever, a physician should be consulted. Multiple stings are especially dangerous. Some people may develop sensitivity to venom after repeated stinging episodes over a short or long period of time. Yellowjackets are closely related to  hornets but usually build their nests underground. They are generally small, about 1/2 inch long, and colored black and yellow. Large colonies of up to 6,000 individuals build soccer-ball-sized paper nests similar to those of the bald-faced hornet. The nests are commonly associated with old rodent burrows and other cavities in the ground or under objects lying on the ground. Entrance holes may be in lawns, gardens, flowerbeds, creek banks or vacant fields. It is unfortunate that these colonies are often disturbed by walking, mowing and other innocent human activities.